Joseph Cotto, 5/5/2015 [Archive]

Tough Times for Christian Conservatives

By Joseph Cotto

These are tough days for Christian conservatives.

While their voting bloc still merits appeal from Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum, the electoral power which it once enjoyed is history. Case in point: The recent uproar over Indiana's legislation which allowed religious business owners to refuse serving non-heterosexuals. Gay rights activists mounted such a campaign that not only was the Hoosier State's law scrapped, but Arkansas dropped plans to enact similar public policy.

Just ten years ago, the Indiana bill might have sparked a countrywide movement of 'family values' politics. Now, those who supported it are left explaining why they aren't bigots and knuckle-draggers.

Even within the Republican ranks, the Religious Right's future looks uncertain, as emphasized by a 2013 FreedomWorks poll.

"Civil liberties and spending issues are scrambling the old foundations of the Republican Party," then-FreedomWorks Vice President of Opinion Research David Kirby said in a press release, going on to mention that "(f)orty percent of Republican voters said they are most interested in promoting 'individual freedom through lower taxes and reducing the size and scope of government,' versus 27 percent 'traditional values'".

Jason Pye of United Liberty, a libertarian blog, further explained the poll's findings: "(A)n eye-popping 78 percent of Republicans consider themselves to be 'fiscally conservative, but socially moderate,' which is a significant finding given the debate in the GOP on social issues."

Most Republicans hold right-of-center views. The majority are, in one variation or another, Christian. There are conservative Christians among those who favor social moderation.

Christian conservatives, on the other hand, want to keep some divisive social issues front and center. They do not care a whit about prevailing societal norms.

In essence, conservative Christians feel no need to legislate their personal values. They see politics as the process of getting the best you can, not as an instrument to perfect the world. Religion is a matter of personal belief and behavior. They are willing to compromise in the voting booth.

Christian conservatives, on the other hand, make no distinction between the tenets of their religion and public policy. They are not focused on practicality or taking the values of others into account when they seek to improve the conditions of society.

Instead, they believe that America should be made as Jesus would make it; their version of Jesus based on an absolutist reading of scripture. They see politics as just one more stage of a vast morality play.

As a result, faithful Christian conservatives believe that their votes are instruments and expressions of God's will. They see no worthwhile division between religious belief and political behavior. Seeing politics and voting as fundamentally moral activities, they cast their ballots for candidates who they believe will pursue righteous policies to make America more godly.

This is why, Christian, conservatives treat routine political compromise as heresy, even within the Republican ranks. It is a violation of principle; good must, never compromise with evil. Time on earth, including politics, is preparation for eternal life with God. The GOP and the United States are unimportant in the long run. After all, the kingdoms of earth must ultimately bow to the Kingdom of God.

Whether Religious Rightists will compromise and remain within the GOP, walk out to start their own party, or reject politics altogether depends on where they see their best interests. Those with a larger stake in the economy will choose to stay and protect it; financial prosperity makes people more open to dealmaking. Those who have minimal investments in the system and consequently feel that politics offer them nothing will bolt.

Any way we look at it, the American Right is going to change. How this will happen, though, is anybody's guess.

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Copyright 2015 Joseph Cotto, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at joseph.f.cotto@gmail.com.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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